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Blog entry by Ethan Sincox posted 02-22-2007 06:38 PM 1043 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve spent at least part of each of the last four evenings sitting at the coffee table, watching whatever, sharpening plane blades and chisel blades.

I started with my small palm-handled carving chisels. I’ve never really had much luck putting the kind of edge on them I think I should have, so this was a really good chance to just sit there and work on them until I was truly happy with how they looked and felt. I have a few I’d purchased a few weeks ago off of E-Bay to fill in some of my missing basic profiles (we can save discussion on my E-Bay addiction for a later blog), and they were already sharpened (they weren’t brand new and being sold by a user who moved up to a better set), so I had something to base my other chisels on, and I think that helped a lot. I’m looking forward to getting out in the shop and trying them out.

Of course I also had to lap and sharpen my #220 plane blade, as discussed in a previous blog.

And then I pulled out my new set of chisels. They aren’t anything fancy, like expensive Matsamura Blue Steel Japanese chisels or even Lie-Nielson or Two Cherries; they’re just a (pretty much) full set of the Irwin/Marple Blue Chip chisels. Until this point, I’ve gotten away with some older Buck Brothers and unnamed mismatched chisels that were not even close to a complete or well-organized matching set. On one of the Frank Klausz videos, he actually talks about the Blue Chip chisels and says how good they are for a modern-made chisel, though he mentions one might want to saw off a part of the handle to improve the balance. I might have to watch that video a few more times to get the nerve up to actually do such a thing… Has anyone else seen that video and have you attempted to saw off the ends of the handles? If so, how did to a) get the nerve to take a saw blade to the handle of a newly sharpened and honed chisel and b) determine where to saw?

Anyway… onwards.

I picked up the basic 4-pack (1/4”, ½”, ¾”, and 1”) at Woodcraft during one of their standard sales and then added the 1/8”, 3/8”, and 5/8” chisels to my Amazon wish list. I got those three from various people for Valentine’s Day, believe it or not (two from my wife and one from my mother-in-law – boy do they know how to earn points in my book!). I decided to pick up the 1 ¼” the other day, just to round the set off to an even eight and give me a nice, wide chisel for paring tenons and trimming mortise holes.

I’d just received the final two from Dana last night, so I decided to take a bit of time to start lapping the backs. Since they all needed to be done, and I hate flipping back and forth between stones (err… diamond plates, really), I wanted to wait until I had the lot of them before I started.

Last night I spent a bit of time getting the initial flat back on the coarse diamond stone. The thinner ones didn’t take too long, but once I got up to ¾” wide and larger, each one did take a bit of time. That’s always the most time-consuming part of it, too. Now that they are all lapped flat, it won’t take me nearly as long to run them through the higher grits.

One of my Christmas presents from Dana was a smaller two-sided ceramic stone. It works fabulously for putting a keen edge on my pocket knife and it worked really well on getting a reflective gleam to the carving knives, too. The problem is, it is a little small and I’m not so sure I’ll be able to use it for the larger chisels.

Wayne Barton is a chip carver. He’s from somewhere in the Midwest… Illinois or Ohio, maybe? Anyway, he has a really good pair of chip carving knives (which I have) with some of the most comfortable handles I’ve ever felt on a woodworking knife. He also sells a pair of fine and extra-fine ceramic stones (I think the extra-fine is equivalent to an 8000 grit water stone) that would be perfect for what I need. They are a little pricy at $45 for the pair, but I think I might just add them to my wish list and see if I can’t get them for my birthday.

Anyway… a few more nights at the coffee table should see me with a full set of chisels, just waiting to take out nice, small, clean shavings of wood.

But now I need to think about something… When I’m working on my tool chest, I’ll have a drawer with fitted spaces for the chisels, but I wonder how I’m going to transport these chisels if I ever need to take them to a class. Maybe I’ll just invest in a canvas chisel roll. Better yet, I could always make my own chisel roll out of some leather I have sitting in the basement – a good, thick burgundy latigo. Or maybe I could figure out a way to make that drawer removable and have a lid I could either slide on (as if it were a sliding lid box) or attach for travel. Interesting ideas to think about!

-- Ethan,

7 comments so far

View Philip Edwards's profile

Philip Edwards

245 posts in 4439 days

#1 posted 02-22-2007 08:48 PM

Sounds like you need to make a second, portable tool chest?? Be a good project!
The Missus won’t let me bring tools and associated stuff into the house anymore – I am jealous!

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4173 days

#2 posted 02-22-2007 09:05 PM

The key is to clear them back out when you’re done and leave the area cleaner than it was when you started, Phil.

I learned that lesson the hard way…

-- Ethan,

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4326 days

#3 posted 02-23-2007 04:06 AM

Oh, I’ve rendered the dining room table otherwise useless for months at a time. Not so bad when the little one was only dining out of a bottle… hard to have “real” meals on the couch now.

Ethan, I did see a neat box/stand in Woodwork (I think) during the past year. If memory serves, it had two trays, and went from travel box mode to stand mode ( I think it was for Lathe tools) pretty easily. was/still is worth considering for me to make one. Not that I have enough chisels (of any time) to warrant one yet… Once I get the “good set” they’ll have a proper home. I do like my set of Marples a nice step up from the buck bros I’ve abused all these years.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4236 days

#4 posted 02-23-2007 05:05 AM

I waited til the wife went on Vacation and then converted the spare bedroom to a small shop. You should have heard me in my dumbest man voice “But Honey, I put a tarp on the floor to keep the sawdust out of the carpet.” That lasted til she realized that sawdust settled all over the rest of the house. We’ve since moved, and you guessed it … no tools in the house. (But it was fun while it lasted)

Oh, speaking of abusing Buck Brothers, i noticed the back of my 1” chisel was starting to round over, so I attempted to flatten the back with a bench grinder. well, twice i stuck the chisel flat faced strait into the wheel and attempted to make a screw driver out of it. Need I explain I was acting like an 8 year old throwing a tantrum. Now it sets in the drawer, about an inch shorter than it was when I started. Now I have to wait til I get a wider wheel. So this Abused Buck Brother is on vacation.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4326 days

#5 posted 02-23-2007 07:13 AM

I know what you need Ethan…. A coffee table with a drawer, or “false panel” in the top to keep your sharpening stones in. Will simplify clean up, and save you from making the cold trip out to the shop…. and when the weather gets nicer, you can still watch cartoons and sharpen away…

That said, do you use a jig (which), or just take care of em old school (if they had diamond stones, on the coffee table, watching David Marks on tape in the old school.) I’m having a heck of a time (fickleness and frugality mostly) trying to settle upon a way I can keep my tools sharp at home (and on the road) when I’m away from the grinder, or it’s too late to be making all sorts of noise. (I guess I just started taking a survey)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4236 days

#6 posted 02-23-2007 07:23 AM

Scott, Breathe Deep…

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4176 days

#7 posted 02-25-2007 11:09 PM

Ethan, What about a drawer that is really a box? The drawer would have a hinged lid that hinged at, let’s say, the two thirds position, This would require you to pull the drawer out to that point, leaving one third of the drawer in the case. The top could then be flipped up for removal of the chisels without the need to remove it from the case. But when you wanted the portability of a small box for the chisels, you simply remove it entirely from the case.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

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